Company Formation in Switzerland – The Ultimate Guide

If you incorporate a company in Switzerland as a non-resident, you are right on-trend. Some of the largest global companies are headquartered in Switzerland. The highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies is in Kanton Zug. Company formation in Zug Switzerland can be considered as one of the most attractive locations worldwide to start a company. Prominent examples of large companies in Switzerland are Google and Adobe.

Actually, there is a start-up boom. 43,185 Swiss companies were founded last year in 2018. More than a third of the investors are foreign investors without a residence in Switzerland. Setting up a company in Switzerland takes only 2 to 6 weeks.

Innovation, political stability, no corruption, anonymity for investors, liberal legislation, excellent banking system, low taxes, quality of life and much more make a Company Formation in Switzerland attractive. Wealthy foreigners are protecting their global assets with Swiss companies.

1. It is easy to start a business in Switzerland?

Setting up a company in Switzerland as a foreigner is very easy and hassle-free. You will deal with a Notary Public and with the Cantonal Commercial Registry (Company Register Office). The velocity for a Swiss company Formation depends on the Swiss Canton you will chose as a domicile for the company. It can take from 2 weeks until a couple of weeks. If time is off essence you buy an existing company in one day. In one day only you can be the owner of a Swiss company. We will help you finding the right company for your needs.

Benefits at a Glance!

  • Strong & liberal economy
  • No corruption and asset protection
  • Moderate tax burden
  • Anonymous investor (asset protection)
  • Modern banking and infrastructure
  • Effiziente Verwaltung
  • Moderne Infrastruktur
  • Headquarters of many international companies
  • Multicultural, international staff
  • Good education
  • Innovation & High-Tech

Facts & Figures on Switzerland!

  • 8.3 million inhabitants (2017)
  • USD 664.6 billion GNP
  • USD 84’180 GNP per capita
  • WEF World Competition Ranking

    • 1st rank of 134 countries
    • 1st rank as a hub for innovation
    • 1st place in Research & Development
    • 3rd place for taxes & bureaucracy
    • 1st place for in-house education

2. Global Asset Protection (Case Studies)

The main reason international investors living in countries with a high corruption rate are using Swiss Companies (AG) is for global asset protection. Their Swiss company (AG) can safely invest in their home country and better protect their assets. Today, this is one of the most important reasons for Swiss company formation.

Let me give you a typical example of why a Swiss AG is so attractive to foreign investors.

A Swiss AG is much better protected in Russia than any Russian company can ever be. Therefore, many Russians make their investments in Russia through a Swiss AG, as a Swiss company is less vulnerable in Russia. In Russia, everyone means that Swiss people invest in Russia and leave the Swiss company unmolested. Swiss AG is considered as the best asset protection tool for successful investments in the Russian Federation.

Let me give you a real example taken of my daily business showing how important asset protection can be.

A supermarket (market value of the property: USD 88 million) was stolen from a Russian investor living in Moscow. The supermarket property was held by a simple British Virgin Island Offshore Company, which was bought for a few thousand dollars. This was a tremendous mistake.

What happened exactly?
Russian fraudsters bribed the officials responsible for registering the company on the British Virgin Islands and illegally replaced the signatories. The new agents of the company employed by the fraudsters have registered in the land register in Moscow as the new legitimate representatives. These have sold the whole supermarket complex in one night and fog action. The damage was irrecoverable. Influent individuals acted in conjunction with a competitor behind the scene in Moscow.

If the supermarket had been registered as a Swiss AG, it would have been impossible to bribe the officials of the commercial register. The owners of the supermarket made a tremendous mistake in saving money with a cheap company located in the wrong jurisdiction with a high corruption rate. A Swiss AG should own a supermarket or any other high-value asset -not a cheap BVI company.

This video shows a real case study of a client of my law firm. In this video, you can see what can happen if you take a cheap offshore company for holding a high-value property instead of a more costly Swiss AG. The money saved with the cheap British Virgin Islands offshore company vanished if compared to the high damage caused by the tremendous mistake of taking the wrong holding company.

Example of a classic car collector holding his old-timer cars with a Swiss AG.

Oldtimer Sammlung Schweiz

Since the marked increase in the price of vintage cars, foreigners are increasingly buying a Swiss dormant company from an old car garage owner in order to keep the classic car collection through the AG and have it professionally cultivated in Switzerland. The international car collectors are looking for especially Swiss license plates, which have very low numbers. The lower the number on the license plate, the higher the price will be. The highly coveted number plates are issued in Switzerland on the company. Clever investors come about the purchase of an existing but dormant Swiss AG to the highly coveted deep license plates for their classic car collection.

Example of a car license plate number: ZH 755.
Such a low number (ZH 755) on the car license plate shows that it was car number 755 who entered into circulation in the Canton of Zurich before WWII. If you buy a new car your car license plate number will be something like ZH 1’222’456.

Let me give you other most frequent reasons for a Swiss Company Formation.

The outstanding quality of life leads to the longest life expectancy in the world. The unspoiled nature, unlimited cultural and leisure opportunities do not lure only tourists. Rather, highly qualified foreign workers and investors come today with innovative business ideas. Of an average income of CHF 7,566 per month, 70% remains for consumption. The inhabitants of Switzerland enjoy the highest purchasing power in the world – despite high prices.

Switzerland is regarded as the most innovative business location in the world. This statement does not come from me but is taken from the last Global Report 2018 by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Experts all over the world are considering planning a move to Switzerland.

“Switzerland pays the highest salaries in the world”

Switzerland meets the highest quality standards. Around 70 technology and start-up centers, mentors and investors will support you and your business idea with advice and action. The Swiss cantons look forward to supporting your business financially.

Crypto-Valley in Zug

Crypto-Valley-Zug

Company formation in Switzerland, Canton Zug, with its “Crypto Valley”, has become very famous for foreigners. Zug has advanced to become the Mecca for block-chain technology. The best traders in the world have turned their backs on the big banks. Well-researched trading teams now trade in Zug professionally with cryptocurrencies worth billions in the services of successful start-ups. Since Marc Rich, the most famous tax fugitive in the world, set up his commodity empire with “Glencore” in Zug, everything that has rank and fame in commodity trading has moved to Zug. The majority of foreigners opt for a Swiss Company Formation in Zug, including BREXIT-fugitives from the UK.

The English language predominates in Zug’s noble restaurants. International private schools are springing up constantly. As a result of BREXIT, many companies are moving away from London to Zurich, Zug or Geneva.

3. How long does it take to incorporate a company in Switzerland?

If all the requirements for setting up a company in Switzerland are met by foreigners,
a Swiss company formation takes several weeks.
Depending on the Canton you prefer as a domicile, it can take from 2 to 6 weeks.
If you are in a hurry, you can shorten the time for company formation in Switzerland.
The express procedure with the commercial register allows a faster Swiss company registration.

4. Swiss Company Formation – comparison with other international locations

Country Research & Development Taxes & Bureaucracy Continuing Education Infrastructure
Switzerland 1 3 1 5
Netherlands 2 2 2 1
Indonesia 3 4 3 28
Luxembourg 4 5 20 19
France 5 8 11 9
United Arab Emirates 6 1 10 3

Source: Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Global Report 2018

5. How can a foreigner start a business in Switzerland?

Can a foreigner start a business in Switzerland? Yes, it is very common setting up a business in Switzerland as a foreigner without a Swiss domicile. However, certain Swiss company formation requirements must be met in order to set up your own company in Switzerland. At least one of the company’s representatives with a single signature must be a resident in Switzerland. A company’s representative can sign for the company alone with a single signature, or there are 2 representatives needed in case of collective signatory rights (jointly by two).

What many do not know.

Many people think that at least one Swiss must be a Director. That is no longer true. Today, it is sufficient if at least one foreigner residing in Switzerland acts as a Director. The purpose of the Swiss company formation residency rule is that the authorities can hold an individual being responsible if something goes wrong. If all Directors lived abroad, everyone could run away in case of damage. At least one member of the board of directors must be a resident in Switzerland. It is sufficient for a foreigner permanently resident in Switzerland to assume the function of a Director.

People from the European Union have the right to personal freedom of movement and the right of free residence in Switzerland. Citizens from third countries, on the other hand, need a work permit from the Labour Market Inspectorate and a residence permit from the Immigration Office. Obtaining both permits for a citizen from a third country is close to impossible.

Only large companies can claim quotas and submit complicated applications for special permits to the Immigration Office of the canton concerned. These specialist permits are subject to high requirements. The chances of success are very limited. Citizens from third countries (non-EU countries) may set up a Swiss AG if they do not live in Switzerland and look after the company from abroad. This is not a problem from the Swiss perspective.

Under Swiss law, there is only one obligation imposed on the shareholder and compan